Book Review—“Writing with Quiet Hands: How to Shape and Sell a Compelling Story Through Craft and Artistry” by Paula Munier, published by Writer’s Digest Books, 2015
Writing is many things to many people—a job, a career, a calling, or perhaps a hobby or a fantasy. Paula Munier says writing is so much more. “Writing is nothing less than a path to enlightenment,” she says in this ruminative and inspiring book. And the best writers are those who write with quiet hands, she adds.
What does it mean to write with quiet hands? Munier reveals the answer using her observations and extensive experience as a literary agent, writer, editor, and writing teacher. “This holy trinity of good writing—competence, confidence, and creativity—are the keys to writing with quiet hands,” she says.
In her book “Plot Perfect: Building Unforgettable Stories Scene by Scene,” she offers guidance about writing itself. She provides tools, exercises, checklists, templates, tips and tricks, and recommendations. Her latest book complements “Plot Perfect” by delving further into writing as a vocation and addressing the crucial aspects of a writing practice.
Talent Isn’t Enough
Munier cautions that some of the most talented writers never finish their works or they burn out. They don’t fulfill their promise. “Talent without the commitment to craft is not enough,” she writes. “In publishing the writers who make it big are those who (1) finish (2) revise and (3) keep on finishing and revising.”
If you think your success hinges on your clever idea, it’s not enough either. Munier says in Hollywood, a “high concept” is sometimes enough, and then the producer will hire someone to transform the idea into a screenplay. Not so in publishing. “If you’re writing books, a great idea is just that—a great idea. The execution of that great idea is what matters,” she explains.
Do’s and Don’ts
In a section about narrative thrust, Munier enumerates 10 do’s and don’ts. At the top of the list is, “DO make something happen. The biggest issue in most stories is that not enough happens. There’s no narrative thrust without action,” she says. Common sense, right? And yet many writers fail this first hurdle.
Munier talks about how to address writer’s block, the fear of starting a new manuscript, the challenges of revising a work, and how to develop writing discipline and nurture good habits. She provides exercises for honing your writing craft and drawing inspiration.
The author is effective in weaving her personal experiences with her professional insights. When she says first-time writers shouldn’t write a novel longer than 120,000 words and they should avoid multiple first-person POVs, you better take her word for it. Her advice is backed by her experience selling books, working with editors, and working as an editor.
Some of the author’s recommendations are things I have done instinctively as a writer, but without a clear method. For example, in a section called “The Second-Draft Deep Dive,” Munier discusses all the necessary elements a writer should address to make a manuscript more compelling and the revision process more productive and less painful.
I’ve covered those elements in the past, but I’d be hard pressed to describe how I did it—or if I could do it again in my current work in progress. Fortunately, Munier has dissected those things and analyzed them in a methodical way. Come second-draft time, all I need to do is reread this particular chapter of her book so I may replicate my experience.
“Writing with quiet hands is the secret to creating stories that resonate with agents, editors, publishers, and ultimately, readers,” Munier says. Whether you’re an established writer or you’re just starting out, this book offers plenty of help so you may write with quiet hands.